Students from Thornhill College, Foyle College, and Lumen Christi College all competed in the regional heat of the competition.

Pupils from Lumen Christi College: In the back row: Owen McFadden, Matthew Duffy, Oisin Toner, front row: Niamh Fleming and Erin Lazarte  are joined by their Mandarin teacher Changqing Guan and teacher Marie Ferris at the MAC in Belfast
Pupils from Lumen Christi College: In the back row: Owen McFadden, Matthew Duffy, Oisin Toner, front row: Niamh Fleming and Erin Lazarte are joined by their Mandarin teacher Changqing Guan and teacher Marie Ferris at the MAC in Belfast

Pupils from Derry travelled to Belfast earlier this week in a bid to be crowned Northern Ireland’s best Mandarin Chinese speakers.

The pupils, from Lumen Christi College, Foyle College, and Thornhill College, had all been invited to take part in the Northern Ireland heat of this year’s HSBC / British Council Mandarin Chinese Speaking Competition.

Eve Flood from Thornhill College in Derrryy is joined by her Mandarin teacher Changqing Guan at the MAC

Eve Flood from Thornhill College in Derrryy is joined by her Mandarin teacher Changqing Guan at the MAC

They were joined at the MAC in Belfast by pupils from schools from across the North.

This is the second time the heat, which is supported by the Confucius Institute at Ulster University, has taken place here.

This year it saw entrants from both groups and individuals, with abilities ranging from beginner to intermediate.

The winners of yesterday’s heat will be announced next month after all the UK heats have been completed, and they will be put forward to the final at the British Museum, London in February 2019 with the overall winner winning a week in Beijing.

Pupils from Foyle College (from left) Conall Cho Ho Kuan, Sarah Robinson, Hollie Craing and Lindsay Wilson are joined by their Mandarin teacher Hong'e XU

Pupils from Foyle College (from left) Conall Cho Ho Kuan, Sarah Robinson, Hollie Craing and Lindsay Wilson are joined by their Mandarin teacher Hong'e XU

Last year, pupils from Lumen Christi College, Loreto Grammar School and Rathmore Grammar School all got through to the final at the British Museum in London.

The competition aims to encourage interest in Mandarin Chinese language and China’s culture, with Mandarin ranked as one of the most vital languages to the UK over the next twenty years.

A report entitled ‘Languages for the Future’ published by the British Council, highlighted that only one per cent of UK adults can speak Chinese even though that same study revealed Mandarin to be the second most vital language for the UK’s future.

Speaking about the competition, which was held in the MAC in Belfast, Jonathan Stewart, Director, British Council Northern Ireland said: “Mandarin Chinese is one of the languages that matter most to the UK’s future prosperity.

“With more than one billion Mandarin Chinese speakers in the world, it is vital that more of our young people learn this valuable language in order to live in an increasingly connected society and compete in a global economy.

“The standards during today’s heat were exceptionally high, especially since this is only the second year of the competition in Northern Ireland and we hope to see some of the students in London for the final.

“We are also really pleased to be working with the Confucius Institute at Ulster University again to help us reach out to schools across Northern Ireland who are already teaching Mandarin.”

The British Council is the UK’s leading cultural relations organisation.

For more information on the HSBC/ British Council Mandarin speaking competition, visit nireland.britishcouncil.org

You can also follow the British Council Northern Ireland on Twitter: @BCouncil_NI